PRITI PATEL attempted to put the blame on Scottish councils when challenged on the legality of the UK Government's planned changes to immigration and asylum policy. 

Stuart McDonald, the SNP MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, asked the Home Secretary why she saw the "relentless flouting of lockdown rules as forgivable for the Prime Minister, but seeking safety here from Assad, the Taliban or genocide as worth four years in prison". 

Patel focused her answer on accusing the SNP's Shadow Home Secretary of deploying "political gimmicks" and blamed Scottish councils for not taking in asylum seekers.

The Home Secretary has previously attempted to shift the blame onto Scottish local authorities when challenged on the UK Government's "inhumane" immigration plans. 

In the House of Commons today, McDonald took the Home Secretary to task over reports of plans to call in the Royal Navy to send back small boats of asylum seekers.

He said: “Her atrocious anti-refugee bill will see Afghans, Syrians and Uighurs arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned for up to four years.

“Instead of ripping up the Refugee Convention and locking up refugees, why doesn’t the Home Office start working with UNHCR and others to start living up to our humanitarian obligations under it? 

“Why does she see relentless flouting of lockdown rules as forgivable for the Prime Minister, but seeking safety here from Assad, the Taliban or genocide as worth four years in prison?”

Patel accused the MP of using “political gimmicks” and said Scottish councils had “no role” in taking in asylum seekers. 

She said: “I think it’s fair to say, our party in government, through the Nationalities and Borders Bill with a new plan for immigration will absolutely do everything to tackle the unscrupulous exploitation of people who cross illegally. 

"But also at the same time provide sanctuary to those that need our help fleeing persecution, who need refuge. 

"But quite frankly, when local authorities across Scotland are not even helping to assist in the accommodation of these people, I’ll take no lectures from the party opposite. 

"His local authorities across Scotland refuse to house people that have come to our country. 

“He can carry on with his political gimmicks but their lack of policy says a great deal."

McDonald said following the debate: "The fact is Scotland’s local authorities more than play their part in supporting refugees, whether through resettlement, the national transfer scheme for unaccompanied children, or through Glasgow being at the forefront of asylum dispersal.

"And more would be willing to provide even greater support if the Tories hadn’t implemented a dreadful asylum accommodation system that sees council’s starved of the funding they need to do the job, while private contractors such as Clearsprings pay multi-million pound dividends to their directors."

We told previously how the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) demanded an urgent sit down with Patel in November last year over her claims that 31 out of 32 Scottish councils were not "pulling their weight".

Councillor Kelly Parry from COSLA said: “I am disappointed that the Home Secretary continues to misrepresent the position of Scottish Local Government on these important issues.

"All 32 councils in Scotland recognise their responsibilities to support the important role that the UK plays in providing safety to those fleeing oppression in their country of origin.

"This has manifested itself in our unanimous and ongoing support for UK resettlement programmes and, most recently, our participation in schemes for Afghan nationals and the national rota for unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

"However, Scottish Local Government has also been clear in its opposition to the current approach around asylum dispersal in general and the use of hotels specifically. 

"There is no funding in place for local statutory services to support people seeking asylum and, unfortunately, the current scale of hotel use across the UK is a direct consequence of the approach that the UK Government has chosen to take.

"COSLA has, for some time, been seeking urgent dialogue on the role that Scottish councils can play in ensuring that asylum seekers are appropriately accommodated and supported. 

"Scottish Local Government is of the opinion that there is a workable solution to be found here and we would urge the UK Government to engage in discussions with us as a matter of priority."